Home > Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery (Little Beach Street Bakery #2)(13)

Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery (Little Beach Street Bakery #2)(13)
Jenny Colgan

‘Well don’t be,’ said Polly, coming up and kissing him. ‘What’s the worst that can happen? Apart from me getting fired and us losing everything?’

There was a pause.

‘Then we go crawling to Reuben,’ said Huckle, and they both grinned in the dim light.

‘Yes, obviously,’ said Polly. Then she turned towards him.

‘No,’ she said. ‘This is OUR life, remember. Not Reuben’s, not Dubose’s. Nobody else’s.’

‘I remember it every day,’ said Huckle simply. ‘When I wake up in the morning and realise you’re lying beside me.’

‘I think I need to kiss you again,’ said Polly.

She woke even before her early alarm, checking her head for mead damage. It wasn’t too bad.

It was still dark outside. She could hear Neil trundling about in the sitting room above them, doing busy bird things. Downstairs in the second bedroom, Dubose wasn’t stirring. At first she didn’t quite understand why her stomach felt so hollow, then she remembered. Malcolm was ‘popping in’ that morning to ‘get a handle on’ the business. She felt incredibly nervous all of a sudden.

Since she’d started in Polbearne she’d had to learn plenty of new things, and doubted herself a lot; but not her baking ability. The one thing she knew, the one thing she turned to in times of nervousness and stress, was pounding and kneading and folding the dough, making it rise, warm and light in the oven, turning simple flour and water and yeast, salt and sugar into all sorts of things.

She got up now, shuffling quietly round the bedroom so she didn’t wake Huckle, which was unnecessary as almost nothing did. He slept like he had an on/off switch.

They didn’t have curtains in the bedroom, partly because the circular walls made finding and fitting them an expensive, time-consuming task, partly because nobody could ever see in, four storeys off the ground, and partly because Polly liked the sun waking her in the summertime, given that she had to get up then anyway, and Huckle never minded. But there wasn’t even a glimmer of dawn on the horizon as she splashed water on her hands and face, brushed her teeth, pulled on faded boyfriend jeans, Converses and a striped T-shirt, threw a jacket over the top and slipped out of the door.

She ran lightly across the cobbles and let herself in to the Little Beach Street Bakery. The first thing she always did in the morning was switch on the coffee machine and grind up some fresh beans. The ritual was incredibly important to her day: she didn’t feel properly awake until she’d had a strong cup of espresso, standing up against the kitchen cupboards, looking out at the dark.

Next she checked the great wood-burning oven. It had been a gift from Reuben and never really went out; they simply damped it at night-time. When it got really hot, it produced smoky focaccia, michette, pizza bases and pies that tasted better than anyone else’s, particularly when eaten outside, ideally in the sunshine, with a little bit of sand in for flavour. The other ovens too warmed up – no matter how chilly the dawn, the bakery was never cold – as Polly got working on the great batches of dough that had risen overnight, expertly moulding the white and the brown into the tins that were lined up, clean but black with age and use, a patina that added, she was entirely convinced, to the flavour, along with the fine sea salt she insisted on, the best flour, and a few herbs snipped into the wholemeal loaf that brought out the sweet nuttiness of its crust. Yes, loaves cost more here than they did in the big supermarket on the mainland. She couldn’t compete with that. She just had to hope that it was worth paying the difference for something she believed was so much tastier than mass-produced bread that you simply would never go back to it. Their daily repeat business would seem to suggest it was definitely a feeling that was shared in the town.

She made up smaller batches of their speciality bread, which went to Mount’s, the smart restaurant, during the season – it wasn’t quite the season yet, and they were shut on Mondays, so she made very little today. It was a wonderfully intense sun-dried-tomato focaccia, deep and sunny and rich, garnished with rosemary and olive oil. The whole thing tasted of summer in a bite; of lazy afternoons in Italian courtyard gardens (not that Polly had ever sat in an Italian courtyard garden, but she liked to think that that was what it would be like).

She also made a raisin and cinnamon soda bread, which was dense and spicy; you wouldn’t eat too much of it, but a slice toasted and spread with butter was basically afternoon tea on a plate. She took out some of the first batch to slice up as a tester on a little plate by the till. Few people could resist a taste now and then, and it helped convince those of her customers who were slightly put off by foreign-sounding names or anything more unusual than pizza.

By 7.30, everything was buzzing, warm and beautifully scented. Jayden whirled in full of energy, sweeping and mopping, slipping the bread out of its tins, something he could now do with relative ease without burning himself, which he had done repeatedly for the first two months.

Looking at him now, Polly was proud of how proficient he’d become, lining up the buns perfectly in their sparklingly clean case; packing away the white bread to take over to the old bakery for Flora to use to put sandwiches together. Everything seemed – touch wood – to be running like a well-oiled machine at the moment. She unlocked the safe and counted out the cashbox change, thinking, as she did every day – though she would never tell him this – that Huckle would be waking up about now, turning and stretching in the morning glow, his broad chest bare and golden…

She smiled happily to herself, relocked the safe, and turned towards the counter. She could hear the clatter and burr of the fishing boats coming home from their long night on the water, and glanced at her watch. Ten minutes to eight. Might as well do it now; people loved it when you opened slightly early, and although the day looked blowy, there were already dog-walkers up and about, marching over the rocks and down to Breakwater Cove. They would often come in for a warm roll, and occasionally, if she wasn’t too busy, she’d make them a coffee too, served in a little paper cup. This was the lovely thing about April, she was thinking: lighter mornings. Dark winter mornings were tough. She’d tried changing the opening time to 8.30, but the fishermen had got very upset about it, so she’d reverted to the original arrangement.

She tied on a fresh apron, made sure her strawberry-blonde hair was properly pinned back, prepared her welcoming smile, stepped up to the door – and got the shock of her life.

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